Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 144, Issue 11

Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Human Trafficking at 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, the 2010 Olympic Games must be trafficking-free. The Future Group released a critical report in early November warning Canada that the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver will provide the ideal climate and business opportunity for human traffickers. It says the games are a potential flashpoint for human trafficking. The report, entitled Faster, Higher, Stronger: Preventing Human Trafficking at the 2010 Olympics, details a startling link between international sporting events and an upsurge in the demand for prostitution, which can fuel human trafficking. It specifically found that there was an increase of 95 per cent in the number of human trafficking victims identified by Greek authorities during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

The concerns, based on the Athens Games, are twofold: first, that a short-term increase in demand for prostitution during the games could be filled by human trafficking victims; and second, that the traffickers may attempt to bring trafficked persons posing as “visitors” into Canada for the Olympics, only to exploit them in other cities or transit them to the United States.

For the upcoming Olympic Games in London, this threat is being taken seriously. A new assistant police commissioner has been appointed with a mandate that includes preventing human trafficking as a by-product of hosting the games.

Estimates outline that more than 4 million girls and women are sold worldwide into prostitution, slavery or forced marriage. The U.S. suggests smaller numbers for global trafficking, between 600,000 and 800,000, and estimates yearly trafficking into the United States at 14,500 to 17,500, 80 per cent of whom are female.

Honourable senators, Canada is no exception to this problem. Our country is both a destination and a transit country for victims of trafficking from Eastern Europe, China, Southeast Asia and Latin America. The RCMP conservatively estimates that between 800 to 1,200 people are victims of human trafficking in Canada each year, and most end up working in forced labour or the illegal sex trade. NGOs, however, estimate this number is as high as 16,000. Logically, because of its covert nature, trafficking is difficult to quantify. What is certain is that trafficking of human beings is an undesirable by-product of globalization, and the Olympic Games in Vancouver has the potential to exacerbate this issue.

Honourable senators, our government must not stand by idly. It must have a plan in place for the anticipated human trafficking associated with this event. While we are celebrating the achievements of our athletes and enjoying the games, it would be atrocious to think we had turned a blind eye to the widespread sexual exploitation of women just a stone’s throw away from the stadium.

Honourable senators, our goal must be to ensure that the Vancouver Olympic Games in 2010 are free of human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children, both within Canada and abroad.